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Penfolds Grange 1951 sets auction record

A bottle from the first vintage of this famous Australian wine sells for more than £57,000…

A mystery buyer has paid more than £57,000 for a bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange, setting a new auction record.

The Melbourne investor paid AU$103,555 (£57,576/US$82,950) for the single bottle, the highest price ever paid for an Australian wine.

Fewer than 20 bottles of the 1951 – the first vintage of Penfolds’ Grange (then called Bin 1) – are in circulation.

It went under the hammer at the 24th Penfolds’ Rewards of Patience auction, which closed on 2 July.

The twice yearly sale, by auctioneers Langton’s, saw 1,092 bottles of Penfolds wines sold, including records for single bottles of Grange from 1952 (AU$46,601/£25,911/US$32,347) and 1970 (AU$3,501/£1,947/US$2,430).

The previous record was $81,555 – also for Grange 1951 – set at a Penfolds’ Rewards of Patience auction in December 2019. At that same sale, a set of Grange from 1951 to 2015 sold for $372,800.

Grange old and new

Peter Gago – only the fourth chief winemaker at Penfolds; Max Schubert, the creator of Grange, was the first – told Decanter that if the buyer were to taste it, the 1951 would still have ‘fruit sweetness mid-palate and a softened finish’.

However it is unlikely the wine will ever be opened, said Langton’s head of auctions Tamara Grischy. ‘The early 1950s Grange wines are very rare. Collectors will snap these up to complete their sets of every vintage.’

For wine lovers looking for a more modern taste of Grange, the 2016 vintage will be released on 6 August. Gago told Decanter: ‘There’s lots to look forward to across this year’s release – both reds and whites.’

He said Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz – which celebrates its 60th vintage with this 2018 vintage, and is often referred to as Baby Grange ‘will create an impact’. Gago added: ‘It will consolidate why this style is still one the world’s most cellared wines.’

Look out for Decanter‘s preview of all 18 wines in the Penfolds Collection 2020 following the launch at Magill Estate.

Halliday’s DRC sale

The Penfolds auction record came in the same week that Langton’s sold 246 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from the cellar of renowned Australian wine critic James Halliday.

James Halliday cellar

Just six bottles were passed in from his AU$1m collection – the largest successful sale of DRC in one parcel.

Overseas buyers bought 35% of these revered Burgundy cuvées, which included bottles of La Tâche 1973 and 1999. Every wine came with a certificate of authenticity signed by Halliday, who has built up the collection over more than 30 years.

Langton’s will auction wines from Halliday’s Australian collection, amassed over six decades, later this year.

General manager Jeremy Parham, said demand for fine wine had boomed since Covid-19 restrictions took place in March. He said online bidders had increased by almost 50% and many more customers had bought wine from the Langton’s website.

‘With many of us still unable to visit our favourite restaurants or travel to cellar doors, new and existing clients have instead immersed themselves in the world of fine wine from the comfort of their homes,’ Mr Parham said.

See also: Inside the Penfolds re-corking clinic

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